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As big as (GameSpy Era) Battlefield - A Nintendo WFC Postmortem

metsallica

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Jun 6, 2004
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"Mario Kart on the Wii, Smash Bros, Monster Hunter, those games were toe-to-toe with some of the biggest franchises like Battlefield that we supported in terms of concurrent players in the evening." - Todd Northcutt

http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/05/23/nintendo-voice-chat-goodbye-nintendo-wi-fi-connection

This week's Nintendo Voice Chat features an interview with Todd Northcutt, former GM of GameSpy Technology. It gives some rare insight into the backend that made WFC work. Or not! It's not as in-depth as I would've liked but it still provides some rationale on an often baffling service that we're not likely to get elsewhere. The quote above is direct from the chat; the full 35 minute talk has a lot more. I'd always thought nobody played online on Nintendo systems; with as cumbersome as they made it why go through the effort? Turns out I was pretty wrong.
 

Shiggy

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Jun 10, 2004
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I could never join Brawl online until months after the launch. At that time I didn't care about the game anymore. Mario Kart and GoldenEye were fine though.
 

Majine

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May 21, 2009
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I listened to it earlier, and all I have to say is: Thanks alot, Cocaine Nazi.
 

metsallica

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Cocaine Nazi was a Disney story (no? Unless I misheard), but I get what you're saying! Still, I'm shocked at the scale. They later say that MH in Japan alone had more servers dedicated to it than ALL OF THE OTHER GAMES THEY SUPPORTED combined. Why wouldn't Nintendo trumpet this stuff from the heavens? They were as big or bigger than Battlefield a few years ago! That's INSANE! Who suspected that?
 

darknil

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Feb 4, 2014
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I don't know why but I was never able to join a game in Smash; Mario Kart was always fast and lag-free for me, on the other side.
 

metsallica

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Jun 6, 2004
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I don't think I even tried getting Smash online because of all the horror stories. That was always a couch co-op game for me.

Also, regarding the thread title change; do we have any sense of what BF was like in terms of concurrent players a few years ago versus today? I know its popularity has skyrocketed and it has become much more viable on consoles, but it was still pretty huge when it was PC-only, no? Are we talking an "orders of magnitude" difference here? Pardon my ignorance on this, I haven't been a hardcore online gamer in about 15 years.
 

jackal27

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Jun 29, 2012
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I still played Goldeneye on my Wii all the time up until they shut it down. Never once did I ever struggle finding a game. There were always lots of players online. I played a ton of Tasunoko vs. Capcom and Phantasy Star Zero right up until the shutdown as well. It's a damn shame.
 

terrisus

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Feb 8, 2012
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Tetris DS was simply amazing.
And, so much Dragon Quest 9 content lost forever.

Very, very sad at the loss of the Nintendo WFC.
Darn Gamespy =(
 

metsallica

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I'd say more darn GLU Mobile / the publishers that didn't want to pay to keep their servers online. If you listen to the podcast Todd mentions that they'd turn servers back on even after publishers stopped paying because of fan outcry. The Gamespy team itself seemed fairly competent (of course consider the source) but they were often hamstrung.
 

metsallica

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Wow, I thought a lot of what Todd said was interesting and would foster some discussion here. Maybe I'll go back through the piece and transcribe more of it for those of you who aren't interested in listening to the full-form interview? It really is pretty fascinating; I mean when was the last time we got a look behind Nintendo's curtain in any capacity?
 

erpg

GAF parliamentarian
May 10, 2009
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Here's an idea of what Gamespy's master server was pulling in 2006:


1. Half Life 29735 servers, 66263 players
2. Half Life 2 22978 servers, 55843 players
3. Battlefield 2 7098 servers, 25188 players
4. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 3580 servers, 11184 players
5. Unreal Tournament 2004 2623 servers, 6172 players
6. Americas Army: Special Forces 2130 servers, 5461 players
7. Call of Duty 3311 servers, 5341 players
8. Call of Duty 2 1379 servers, 5053 players
9. Neverwinter Nights 1187 servers, 3079 players
10. Quake 3: Arena 1855 servers, 2661 players
11. Soldier of Fortune 2 1176 servers, 2520 players
12. Medal of Honor Allied Assault 1984 servers, 2307 players
13. Unreal Tournament 2237 servers, 1853 players
14. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Spearhead 1306 servers, 1776 players
15. Battlefield 1942 863 servers, 1681 players


From FPSAdmin.
 

Lijik

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Sep 16, 2008
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I'd always thought nobody played online on Nintendo systems; with as cumbersome as they made it why go through the effort? Turns out I was pretty wrong.

I remember being shocked after picking up Rabbids in Time months on sale after release, and finding it was still active online. Last game Id ever expect to have legs, so im not surprised the big name titles on Wii had a healthy online playerbase
 

metsallica

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Jun 6, 2004
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Here's an idea of what Gamespy's master server was pulling in 2006:


1. Half Life 29735 servers, 66263 players
2. Half Life 2 22978 servers, 55843 players
3. Battlefield 2 7098 servers, 25188 players
4. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 3580 servers, 11184 players
5. Unreal Tournament 2004 2623 servers, 6172 players
6. Americas Army: Special Forces 2130 servers, 5461 players
7. Call of Duty 3311 servers, 5341 players
8. Call of Duty 2 1379 servers, 5053 players
9. Neverwinter Nights 1187 servers, 3079 players
10. Quake 3: Arena 1855 servers, 2661 players
11. Soldier of Fortune 2 1176 servers, 2520 players
12. Medal of Honor Allied Assault 1984 servers, 2307 players
13. Unreal Tournament 2237 servers, 1853 players
14. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Spearhead 1306 servers, 1776 players
15. Battlefield 1942 863 servers, 1681 players


From FPSAdmin.
Hmm, so not super-impressive, but when did GameSpy part with Battlefield? Todd says his data is from a few years prior, so more like 2010-2011. Was their tech still incorporated into the game just administered internally at EA / Dice?
I remember being shocked after picking up Rabbids in Time months on sale after release, and finding it was still active online. Last game Id ever expect to have legs, so im not surprised the big name titles on Wii had a healthy online playerbase
Who knew that game even had multi! I know even up until the closing of WFC I never had to wait long to find some good competition in Tetris DS. Now that it's gone I wish I'd experienced more; ain't that always the way?
 
Feb 3, 2007
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Wow, I thought a lot of what Todd said was interesting and would foster some discussion here. Maybe I'll go back through the piece and transcribe more of it for those of you who aren't interested in listening to the full-form interview? It really is pretty fascinating; I mean when was the last time we got a look behind Nintendo's curtain in any capacity?

The narrative that Wii owners only bought wii sports and then stuck their console in a cupboard to gather dust, and that online doesn't matter to nintendo and was non-existent on the wii is pretty firmly established.
We don't want to let facts undermine that.
 

metsallica

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To be fair, it's established for a pretty good reason. But hey, the point of this thread was to try and dispel that myth in at least some capacity! I think Todd does a pretty good job doing so; everyone should really give the podcast a listen. I wish they spoke to him longer, I could listen to this type of stuff for hours. It sounds like he has such tales to tell. Like, who was the old guy calling the shots on Nintendo's online infrastructure team? That's probably some legend who has been at Nintendo for 30 years, sitting there nodding off during GameSpy meetings.
 
Hmm, so not super-impressive, but when did GameSpy part with Battlefield? Todd says his data is from a few years prior, so more like 2010-2011. Was their tech still incorporated into the game just administered internally at EA / Dice?

Who knew that game even had multi! I know even up until the closing of WFC I never had to wait long to find some good competition in Tetris DS. Now that it's gone I wish I'd experienced more; ain't that always the way?

I believe after Battlefield 2142.

Battlefield 3 and 4 were Origin and the Bad Company games were some kind of internally made disaster.

Edit: Yes, 2142: http://www.ea.com/1/service-updates
 

metsallica

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So maybe the numbers are less impressive that I initially thought. Wish there was a way to get more insight on this. Hey NVC, we know you guys post here! Any chance of having Todd pen a postmortem? Or a way-longer follow up interview with fan-sourced questions? Anything? There is so much potential gold to mine here.
 

Starwolf_UK

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I'll give it a listen sometime, even if it will leave me wanting more...

I remember up until the start of erm...2008 was it you could obtain numbers for the Wi-Fi connection games (including unreleased games; probably why it stopped). There might be some GAF threads somewhere but I remember Guitar Hero 3 was the biggest thing on the Wii in those days.
 

metsallica

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Jun 6, 2004
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Is Nintendo hosting the servers for Wii U and 3DS games themselves now?
They must be, that's the whole Nintendo Network initiative. Though I'm sure they have (silent?) partners. Todd actually talks about how the "we're dropping you" call went. GameSpy was actually part of the early 3DS online infrastructure discussions.
 

1337

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Jul 29, 2004
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Nice podcast, really a good listen. Too bad the interview lasted so short, I think they could have gotten more out of him. Really interesting stuff. WhatI do wonder is the following. Do you need more servers for MH because there are more seperate games than in Battefield for instance? BF on PC is at least with 32 players, while MH has only 4. That looks to me quite a crucial difference.
 

metsallica

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Could be, sad that we won't likely get anything more on this other than the 30 minutes here. It really is extremely fascinating... I always cherish the rare peeks behind Nintendo's curtain.